Ride2Recovery Columbia Cyclefest, 2011

I have spent so much time in the upstate and in the mountains this year, that I sometimes forget what we have in my own back yard. Those who say Columbia, SC doesn’t have hills need to ride the Lake Wateree route first. To my surprise, this was among the more challenging rides in which I have participated this year.

As an active member of Carolina Cyclers, I had a small hand in planning for this event. When I say small, I mean very small. John Quinn was the one who did most of the work and he did a wonderful job. He is also a doctor, and happened to be on call this weekend. I was officially his back-up. If he were called away, I wouldn’t be able to ride and would spend my time behind the scenes making sure everything went accordingly. I showed up bright and early at 6AM to help get everything prepared. To my relief, John was there and had not been called. This meant I had the green light to ride.

One great thing about cycling is that you support some useful charities. This one, however, is my charity of choice. Many know of the Wounded Warriors Project that helps injured service members after serving their country. The Ride2Recovery project is part of that program. It uses the sport of cycling to help these soldiers recover. The idea is that, as an intense cardio fitness activity, it can help with physical, mental and emotional rehabilitation. The program uses the proceeds to get equipment (bikes) and put together functions to get them out to ride. I have met a number of these ‘Warriors’ on various rides and they are all tremendous people. I was glad to help. Special thanks to Ron Doiron and Jim Bush in bringing this program to our attention.

American Legion Auxiliary Unit Volunteers

We also had the support of the American Legion Riders, who directed us around the course through their motorcycle support. The American Legion Auxiliary Unit under the capable leadership of Louise Winesett provided the volunteer assistance and they were tremendous. They helped with registration, aid at rest stops, and best of all, they prepared a fantastic lunch after the ride. Because of their assistance, this was probably the most supported Columbia ride.

American Legion Auxiliary Unit Donating Bicycles to Ride2Recovery

Unlike most other local rides, there was a more ceremonious feeling in the air. There were photo opportunitities for the programs and a number of pre-ride announcements. The American Legion Auxiliary Unit donated three Trek bicycles to the Wounded Warrior program. Senator Joel Lourie also stopped by and gave a short speech supporting the program and thanking the Warriors for their service. After a short prayer, we were off on the ride.

Senator Joel Lourie

The weather was clear, but surprisingly cool in the morning. Overnight temperatures were in the lower 50s, which I believe is the lowest we have had in months. There was a strong, chilling wind that made the temperature feel even cooler when riding. In the early going I could feel the temperature in my lungs due to the strong breeze. The temperature rose and in the late morning and earning afternoon, it became perfectly comfortable cycling weather.

Even though I stayed in the front in the early going of the ride, I could tell that I was not at my best. The miles over the past couple weeks were taking their toll. The lead pack became established around Kelly Mill Road, with a buckled in Triathlete pulling the very front. Somehow when bursting through Kelly Mill Road, we missed a turn. The route was marked, but we were just going too fast and the guy in front didn’t know the area. We kept going, even though locals were murmuring that we should have turned there. There were moments of confusion as we barreled along. We were about 1.5 miles away before we finally got the pack to stop and reverse course. And like that, the 72-mile course became 75.

After getting back on course, the pace picked up a bit. I was fine for most of it, even pulling my share. We skipped the first rest stop. Around mile 20, I felt a dull soreness in my upper left quad. At first it didn’t bother too much, but as I continued to spin at a high pace, it took its toll. My pedal stroke became uneven and I knew that would not work at this pace. I backed off the pack and rode alone for awhile, massaging the quad and hopefully working out whatever kink existed. I caught up with two other riders (Steve and Rhiannon from Sumter) and we cruised along together for the next few miles. We reached the second rest stop, which is where we caught the lead pack. I refueled and massaged my quad, hoping it would loosen up.

After the rest stop, the pack became an efficient paceline, which was perfect for me and my ailing muscles. We worked together to get to Lake Road, the cutoff for the longer and shorter routes. From there the pack split and we had about eight remaining for the longer route. The pace slowed slightly on Lake Road, to my delight. I needed a break.

Richard from California crossing Wateree Bridge

Richard from California, who wore a Ride2Recovery jersey but was not a wounded warrior himself led us through Lake Road. We joked that if he were a wounded warrior, it was false advertising because he was definitely healthy in the hills. He pulled the pack through the majority of Lake Road’s scenic twists and turns. This was a very pleasant ride. The hills were rolling, with some steep inclines, but nothing too challenging. It was more a peaceful route along the banks of the lake that provided nice views the entire time.

Riding around Lake Road

After Lake Road, the real climbs began. Of all my Columbia-area rides, this may be the toughest section I have experienced. The first climb out of Wateree was around 1.5 miles. It was not too steep, maybe 6-8% at the beginning before levelling off to 2-4%. The length is what was surprising, as most Columbia hills are short and sweet. I have seen this climb listed as a category 5 (lowest of the Tour de France climb categories), which is the only rated climb in the Columbia area that I am aware.

More climbs followed. They were all of the rolling variety with steep inclines. Some of these hills reminded me of the foothills around the Tigerville/Greenville area. These are the kind that can eat you alive after awhile. That is exactly what happened with me. Part of this was because of the speed in which we were traveling. We accelerated going downhill rather than recovering. My quads, still reeling from all the miles of late, were screaming on every hill for the last 25 miles.

When we finally reached the end, I was spent. It was probably because of the speed, but physically I felt like I would after a big mountain century. Also like those mountain rides, I was famished and exhausted. The best cure was a big lunch and a quiet nap.

Thanks to everyone for a great ride!
Garmin GPS Link

10 responses to “Ride2Recovery Columbia Cyclefest, 2011

  • Ben Foxworth

    We picked Saturday for a trip up White Oak Mountain. I climbed it first at the Marquis de Sade ride in about 2002. I don’t believe the Skyuka side was paved then. It was a hard climb, as always, coming after the watershed and Pearson Falls, but the beautiful, cool weather helped. The strong winds did not. On the north-facing switchbacks we turned into strong headwinds, on the right-facing ones we had wind at our backs. I rode as easily as I could since we had a climb up some of the Saluda Grade, and then up Pearson Falls, about 58 miles total.

    I had remembered White Oak as being relentlessly 10+%, so was pleased to find some sections a bit easier than that, probably closer to 7%. Descending Skyuka was NOT fast, fun or relaxed, but the views off White Oak compensated for the climb and the descent.

    • aaronwest

      Hi Ben, Sounds like quite a ride. Yes, White Oak is a beast, but it does lighten up on some sections, mostly around the top. You are correct that Skyuka was somewhat recently paved. I believe it was 2-3 years ago from what people have told me. I have not gone up the other side, but I understand that is the easier route. Going down is not fun at all, as you mention. I tend to break up the descent in chunks and use the viewing areas as stopping points. Otherwise my hands get tired from all the braking.

      • Ben Foxworth

        Hey Aaron,

        First, I wanted to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your postings. Great job, too, on the double century!

        As for the descent of Skyuka, all the trees were fully in leaf, and I really didn’t see any views on that descent. I saw great views ascending the White Oak Mtn. Rd. side, but as best I could tell, trying to stay in my lane on the switchbacks, there were no views to be had going down Skyuka. I have not yet climbed the mountain from that side, but from what I’ve heard, it’s steepest down low, probably in the 14-16 percent range.

      • aaronwest


        Thanks for the feedback. It is a labor of love and I’m glad that people enjoy reading.

        I meant that the Skyuka side was a difficult climb and that the White Oak side was scenic. Yes, it is very steep down near the base of Skyuka Rd. My Garmin noticed had spots at 18% and I think there was a 20%, but 14-16% is probably the average down there. 8-12% near the top.

      • Ben Foxworth

        Most welcome, regarding the feedback! Let us know sometime when you’re looking for an upstate ride. I’m in Greenville, and I think this shows you my email?

        If you really want something steep, I know two climbs in the county that are really transcendently psychotic! No fun whatsoever! 😉 With advanced notice I may be able to get you a guide. (I don’t plan to go to one of them again, so it isn’t likely to be me.) For something much more doable, Sassafras might appeal, and you can go to Rosman for refreshments after. If you like the Saluda watershed, the Rosman side might also be enjoyable. We rarely do Caesar’s Head anymore. Too many motorcycles going UP it at 80 mph or more.

      • aaronwest

        Funny that you mention Sassafras. Some friends of mine just did it and it was on my list for next. I was even making tentative plans to come up this weekend. Decided against it in order to save my legs for the beach ride next week. I understand that is a very crazy climb with 20% sections. Not sure I can handle anything more psychotic than that, but we’ll see.

        I might take you up on the Greenville ride offer sometime. I have gone up to ride with the Freewheelers of Spartanburg, usually up towards the Saluda/Tryon area. Next year we’ll probably be doing some rides in N Greenville/Tigerville area to train for Mitchell. I have heard a lot about the Rosman/Brevard region and would love to explore it further.

  • Steve

    Great ride report and pics! Very nice to see the Wounded Warrior Program supported. I own an Army cycling jersey like the ones pictured near the Senator. You always see one or two of them in the local events in Northern Virginia, which I suppose is hardly surprising!

    • aaronwest

      Hey Steve, There were a number of Army jerseys like that. We are near Fort Jackson, so I have seen those around, and I tend to see them at big mountain events as well. There were also a dozen or so stars and stripes Ride2Recovery jerseys. They were very cool. This ride had a very patriotic feel to it.

  • Ron Doiron

    Many many thanks to Dr. John Quinn and the Carolina Cyclers, Jim Bush of Ride2Recovery Southeast, Louise Winesett and The American Legion Auxiliary of South Carolina, Tim Bostick and the Spring Valley Presbyterian Church, the American Legion Riders from Greenville, SC and their bretheren abroad, Summit Cycles, and OutSpokin Bicycles for their efforts in making this event a SUCCESS! We had Soldiers from Fort Benning and Fort Stewart, Georgia as well as from Fort Jackson, SC. Thank You all those who participated and woke up as saddle-sore as I did the next morning! I wish I could write and express what this meant to me and for the continuance of using cycling as therapy for our recovering Soldiers and Veterans!

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